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Roots, Chicken & City Hall

Made a rooty chocolate cake based off a recipe from the era and area of Downton Abbey. The recipe used to be on the National Trust website, before they redesigned it some time last weekend, but I was able to find a copy here. I had an idea it would come out as a kind of British red velvet cake, combining the moist texture of carrot cake. I'll say right off the bat, grating the root vegetables was a pain in the nuts. It took me about half an hour to grate four golf ball-sized rounds, and by the time I was done, it was hard to tell my blood from the blood of the roots. I was quite pleasantly surprised by the relatively small amounts each ingredient called for as well, since there's only two of us eating whatever I baked. I poured everything into a brownie dish, since that's the only baking dish I have apart from a casserole pan, and largely hoped for the best. The batter was a lovely deep red, deepened further by the melted dark chocolate velvety with butter. This colour was retained even after baking, making for a very pleasant visual effect. The resultant red velvet brownie was everything I liked about brownies minus the cloying overt chocolatey-ness. It was moist in the centre, with a crunchy crust when fresh. Overnight, the crust did moisten a fair bit, but it was still a tasty treat -- not too sweet either.

Dinner was ayam panggang santan (roasted chicken with coconut milk) based off a recipe kathrynlinge found in an Indonesian Malay cookbook. It's like a much simpler one-pot ayam percik (grilled chicken), with more of a gravy. This gave me an excellent opportunity to test out my mortar and pestle, which worked wonderfully. The recipe called for candlenuts, which I didn't have, so I substituted it with a handful of walnuts instead. Candlenuts, to the best of my knowledge, were often used as a thickener and bittering agent in the Malay dishes I grew up with. My paternal grandmother makes a really good green sambal thickened with candlenuts, that is simultaneously sour, bitter and evenly spiced with green chillies. Walnuts have the bitterness, and since the recipe is predominantly coconut milk, I wasn't too worried about thickening the sauce. I used boned chicken thighs instead of a whole chicken as well, largely for ease of eating. And instead of serving it with glutinous rice, which is by the way an excellent idea, I used laksa noodles (lai fun), except in my specific case, I used banh canh, which I find has a superior texture and squiggliness.

It was rather delicious. I turned the chicken skin up during cooking, using an open cast iron skillet. This resulted in crisp roasted chicken skin and moist chicken meat underneath, swimming in its own rich sauce. I also fried all the spices together first, rather than separately as per the recipe, but I may have had the heat up too high. The chicken browned nicely, but the resultant paste was a much darker overall colour (something like dark kurma gravy) than Kathryn's. I could've also just been using a much thicker sauce as well, since I used only 1 can of coconut milk plus about a cup of stock. This was the first real meal I'd cooked in a long while. Work has turned most of our dinners into takeout lately, or very simple ad hoc soups. Seth's belly had another relapse two nights ago, which means my abilty to cook meals is more critical than ever in ensuring he has things he can eat.

I'd forgotten to mention that during my walk home from Taste the other day, I actually entered City Hall, ostensibly to get application forms for the City ID card, but it turns out you can't even get into the room for the cards without filling out an online application and appointment system first. So I wandered through the marbled underground tunnels (because I was lost), and had a peek at their latest art instalment down there, photographs from a magazine, I think, were going up on the walls at the time. Two staff members were putting this together, a man and a woman. The man reminded me of Seth, same height, pale and dark-haired, and quite thin, fitting the photos I've seen of my husband at a younger age. I went upstairs, into the main hall, always crowded with newlyweds. There was a little goth contingent taking their wedding photo at the foot of the stairs, I thought it was cute. The tall ceilings and intricate plasterwork has always been deeply soothing to me. My mother noted, when she visited SF, that there were no negative images used in the decorations at City Hall -- strange for a Western building. There weren't even weapons in the frescoes. Everything was very measured and peaceful. Honestly, the whole thing was making me deeply nostalgic. The day we got married, Seth and I were happy, but we were also very overwhelmed. I don't think either of us were paying too much attention to what was around us. The crowds and the noise wracked our nerves, two people who are together because we're roughly the only other person we genuinely want to be with at all times. Loren, who I had tea with that day, was my witness. She brought that beautiful bouquet of white roses and the matching pin for Seth. So everything kind of conspired to make me realise what a momentous occasion that really was, three years later. My marriage is the most affirming, empowering relationship I've ever had with anyone. It's the best decision I've made my entire adult life. Any idea that one day, I might not have that any more, is absolutely terrifying. These were the things I thought about on my walk back home through the Tenderloin (because my sense of direction managed to forget Civic Center station was between 16th St and Powell). I am, for all that I am an intrinsically depressed person and will always be for the rest of my life, very innately happy.



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 5th, 2012 02:31 am (UTC)
Oh! that makes me glad I copied over the British recipes. Here's a link if you'd like:

Everything you cooked sounds lovely. I wish I could be there. ^_^

And it's been about 3 years for you and Seth already? Wow. :)
Feb. 5th, 2012 02:40 am (UTC)
Oh, gosh! Thanks! ^_^

I am of course, stumped over what to make for dinner. Feeling much more low energy today, but trying to convince myself to make chicken balls. I got the butcher to mince chicken breasts for me and everything.

The link is UBER helpful. Who knows if the National Trust will get around to having recipes again? It seemed like a great idea to encourage people to visit their historical towns.

This is heading into the 4th year with Seth. It's still a little surreal. :)
Feb. 5th, 2012 02:11 pm (UTC)
Awwww! So sweet!
Feb. 14th, 2012 05:46 pm (UTC)
I am so happy that you and Seth found each other! Wishing you an eternity of continued happiness!
Feb. 18th, 2012 02:00 am (UTC)
Aww, thank you so much! That's really very sweet. :)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )